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North America’s biggest mobile Ferris wheel comes to South Florida Fair


It stands 155 feet tall, weighs more than 400,000 pounds and requires special clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to erect.

North America’s largest portable Ferris wheel, called the Midway Sky Eye, makes its debut at the South Florida Fair, which runs Jan. 12-28.

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The wheel, which was manufactured in the Netherlands and had its inaugural run at last year’s Florida State Fair in Tampa, is co-owned by Frank Zaitshik of South Florida Fair operator Wade Shows and Wood Entertainment. The massive structure will take three days to set up at the fairgrounds off Southern Boulevard in unincorporated West Palm Beach.

The crane required to build the Midway Sky Eye will be in place this weekend, ready for the wheel to begin rising as crews on Sunday begin assembling its 500 pieces.

“It’s a heck of an attraction,” said Rick Vymlatil, president and CEO of South Florida Fair and Palm Beach County Expositions Inc. “… Because of its size and all that’s necessary to erect it and move it around, it’s not one of those attractions that’s going to be available at every fair and festival.”

In a news release, the fair compared the ride’s weight — more than 400,000 pounds — to that of an elephant’s, saying the wheel is about 20 times heavier. A more Florida comparison could be made: It is about 167 times the size of a large great white shark, about 360 times the size of a manatee, and about 10,000 times the size of the average bushel of honeybell oranges.

Its height — 155 feet, about 25 times as tall as Gov. Rick Scott — and position under the flight path to Palm Beach International Airport required the fair’s organizers to obtain clearance from the FAA.

It’s the first time in Vymlatil’s nearly 36-year career in the carnival industry that a ride at one of his shows has needed such a request.

In its letter deeming the ride “no hazard to air navigation,” the FAA requires Wood Entertainment to equip the wheel with a flashing red light to warn pilots of its presence — presumably not an issue when the ride in operation, given the more than 524,000 LED lights that will put on a show for those on the ground. The ride features more than 6 miles of wiring to power the multicolored lights, the fair said.

But when the fair shuts down for the night and the ride still is standing in its position about 5 miles west of the end of the PBIA runway, the red flashing light must stay on as a heads-up to pilots, Vymlatil said.

Vymlatil said the wheel has created quite a buzz.

“The amount of interest that the wheel has generated has been amazing, frankly,” he said.

The wheel has 36 gondolas, each able to hold six riders. It will cost $5 to ride the Midway Sky Eye, which is excluded from the fair’s wristband sales.



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